Mar
25

Surveys and other miscellanous information

Filed Under (Methodology, program evaluation) by Molly on 25-03-2014 and tagged , , , , , ,

The question of surveys came up the other day. Again.

I got a query from a fellow faculty member and a query from the readership. (No not a comment; just a query–although I now may be able to figure out why the comments don’t work.)

So surveys; a major part of evaluation work. (My go-to book on surveys is Dillman’s 3rd edition 698685_cover.indd; I understand there is a 4th edition coming later this year.9781118456149.pdf )

After getting a copy of Dillman for your desk, This is what I suggest: Start with what you want to know.

This may be in the form of statements or questions. If the result is complicated, see if you can simplify it by breaking it into more than one statement or question. Recently, I  got a “what we want to know” in the form of complicated research questions. I’m not sure that the resulting survey questions answered the research questions because of the complexity. (I’ll have to look at the research questions and the survey questions side by side to see.) Multiple simple statements/questions are easier to match to your survey questions, easier to see if you have survey questions that answer what you want to know. Remember: if you will not use the answer (data), don’t ask the question. Less can actually be more, in this case, and just because it would be interesting to know doesn’t mean the data will answer your “what you want to know” question.

Evaluators strive for evaluation use . (See: Patton, M. Q. (2008). Utilization Focused Evaluation, 4ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Utilization-Focused Evaluation; AND/OR Patton, M. Q. (2011). Essentials of Utilization-Focused Evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.Essentials of UFE).  See also the The  Program Evaluation Standards , which lists utility (use) as the first attribute and standard for evaluators. (Yarbrough, D. B., Shulha, L. M., Hopson, R. K., & Caruthers, F. A. (2011). The Program Evaluation Standards: A guide for evaluators and evaluation users (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.The_Program_Evaluation_Standards_3ed)

Evaluation use is related to stated intention to change about which I’ve previously written. If your statements/questions of what you want to know will lead you to using the evaluation findings, then stating the question in such a way as to promote use will foster use, i.e., intention to change. Don’t do the evaluation for the sake of doing an evaluation. If you want to improve the program, evaluate. If you want to know about the program’s value, merit, and worth, evaluate. Then use. One way to make sure that you will follow-through is to frame your initial statements/questions in a way that will facilitate use. Ask simply.

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